A Florida doctor who was handcuffed in front of his home before volunteering with the homeless said he was profiled
Written by Craig Richardson on April 15, 2020
Original Post by CNN
As his wife and children watched from inside, a Miami doctor was handcuffed in front of his home while he said he was loading supplies for homeless residents into a van.Miami police said the officer stopped the doctor for leaving trash in his yard. Dr. Armen Henderson says he was targeted because of his race. ”If I was a fairer-skin person or a white person, just doing the same thing, I don’t believe he would’ve stopped me,” Henderson said. “It was the nature of the stop that really concerned me.”Now, the incident is under investigation by both the police department and the Civilian Investigative Panel, a city department that independently investigates Miami police.
Henderson, an internist at the University of Miami Health System, has been testing the city’s homeless residents for coronavirus since March.This is what Henderson said happened on Friday, the day of the incident. CNN viewed his home security surveillance footage that captured the exchange without sound.
He said he was loading up a van full of tents he planned to distribute among homeless residents in downtown Miami. He said he took the tents out of their boxes and left the boxes in his yard, where he said city workers typically pick up bulky trash.That’s when he said he saw a police officer drive past down a different street, make a U-turn and turn down his block, though this isn’t clear in the footage.He says the officer asked him whether he lived there and said he’d heard complaints from neighbors about excessive trash, Henderson said.Henderson said he told the officer he always leaves bulkier trash in front of his yard. In the footage, small items are seen strewn on the sidewalk and in the grass.Henderson thought the exchange ended there and turned away from the officer back toward his van.
Dr. Armen Henderson, seen here with his wife and children, said the Miami officer racially profiled him and put his health at risk.The officer got out of his car then asked him for his ID, Henderson said. Henderson said he told him he didn’t have it on him but that the house the two were standing in front of was his.Then, Henderson said, the officer handcuffed him.When he locked the cuffs around Henderson’s wrists, the doctor called for his wife, who was sitting on the porch with their two young children.Meanwhile, Henderson said, the officer got angry and began yelling inches away from Henderson’s face.”All of a sudden, he’s got his finger all up in my face, he’s pointing at me, yelling at me, saying, ‘You’re going to call me sir, call me sergeant,'” Henderson said. “It was very humiliating.”His wife came outside and asked the officer why he handcuffed her husband. Henderson said the officer told her that he had “given [the officer] an attitude.”The officer demanded that his wife show him one of their IDs, Henderson said. She ran inside and grabbed hers, and the officer removed the cuffs from Henderson’s wrist.The officer then got back in his car and drove away without an apology, Henderson said.
What happened next
The exchange took 3 minutes. Henderson filed a complaint with the Civilian Investigative Panel the same day detailing their exchange.He said the officer put his health at risk by violating social distancing and profiled him because he’s black.”He put me in danger,” he said. “Now you’re putting my work at risk, the people that I love at risk and my patients at risk, as well.”
In a video statement released Saturday, the day after Henderson was handcuffed, Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said the department “does not condone or accept profiling of any kind.”But the stop was spurred by trash, he said. The department has not identified the officer.”We have had a litany of complaints pertaining to illegal dumping,” Colina said in the video. “There is a cargo van that’s parked in front of that home, where there appears to be trash that’s being offloaded. That is the genesis of the stop.”What happened after the stop, he said, will be investigated.The department declined to comment to CNN beyond what was provided in Colina’s statement.Rodney Jacobs, assistant director of the Civilian Investigative Panel, told CNN that the department will assign an investigator to Henderson’s case who will present their findings to the panel. Based on those findings, the panel will decide whether the police officer violated department policy in his interaction with Henderson.But the panel’s decision can only go so far: According to a Florida statute concerning law enforcement officers’ rights, only law enforcement agencies can decide whether to take disciplinary action against a member of that department, unless that member is the subject of a criminal investigation,Jacobs said.
Where things stand now
The day he was handcuffed, Henderson ended up making it to his volunteer spot on time. He worked there, testing homeless Miamians for coronavirus and passing out supplies, for three hours.And even though he wasn’t arrested, his encounter with police has still impacted his family. His wife was “really shaken up” by the encounter, he said.”It sucks for her, having to come out and see me in handcuffs, and it could’ve escalated to a situation when she could’ve lost me — all on a Friday morning,” he said.